Footage Requests: Standard Procedure Thoughts?
Hi Guys, and Happy New Year!
Mainly, our deal is a written contract and clear understanding that we'll deliver our cut of a project for a certain price (with a ton of caveats for things that often change during prepro or production), and the understanding that any additional client changes will be undertaken at an additional price. It works pretty well for everyone.
Now, we generally don't offer to give the client the raw footage (and since we shoot on RED it's really RAW footage).
However, we recently had a couple of clients who wanted the raw footage, too. Unfortunately, our contract doesn't say anything about this, so we just agreed to give the clients the raw footage at our cost for running a copy of it and fedexing it to them.
How do you guys deal with this situation?
On the one hand, you don't want to alienate a client. I generally tend to err on the side of making clients happy.
On the other hand, sometimes we do shoots for not much money, and frankly, seeing a client take the raw footage we crafted into an online video and turn it into, say, an infomercial, feels kind of bad and hurts a bit in the pocketbook. I mean, we definitely charge differently for, say a TV commercial as opposed to a web video. And while I appreciate that a client may think our web video work is as good as an infomercial or whatever, I can't help but feel that the end result of turning a web video into an infomercial won't benefit the client much, either.
I think the solution is a clause in the contract that says how we'll deal with the raw footage, and perhaps some sort of a usage clause? But how to do that, again, without scaring a client off.
Any ideas? Much appreciated!
Web and Video Design
If you're hired to shoot... then the footage is theirs. Work for hire.
What's not their's is logs, EDL, and project files. Same goes for stock music, fonts, plug-ins, etc.
WE typically charge clients a fee to get a copy of their footage (since tape is dead). But that is in the budget and is comparable to what we used to charge for tape stock.
Richard M. Harrington, PMP
Author: From Still to Motion, Video Made on a Mac, Photoshop for Video, Understanding Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Studio On the Spot and Motion Graphics with Adobe Creative Suite 5 Studio Techniques
In our case, we're never hired to "just" shoot, we're always hired to deliver a finished project. That's what our contract has under deliverables- "director's cut of xxx".
But I do agree, if one is hired as a shooter then the footage is absolutely a work for hire.
Web and Video Design
When you are hired by a client to shoot and edit and deliver a project...the footage is theirs. Unless the contract states differently. When I work on projects for broadcast TV, all of the footage (minus stock footage that was bought just for the show) is turned over to them. The masters are turned over to them. And the project files are not. Not unless expressly mentioned in the contract (and only one network I know asks for this).
Even on smaller non-broadcast projects....when I am hired to shoot and edit and deliver a project, the footage is theirs. They hired you on the shoot days...therefore you are a work for hire. They get the footage you shot. If they DIDN'T pay you for those shoot days, then your footage is considered STOCK FOOTAGE, and isn't theirs. But, if you are paid to shoot...and that is rolled into the cost of production, the footage you shot is theirs.
GETTING ORGANIZED WITH FINAL CUT PRO DVD...don't miss it.
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I feel honored that you guys are giving me your perspectives on this. Thank you.
So, do you typically have one set line item price for all shooting you do? Or do you have tiered pricing, based on what kind of a job it is? If you have tiered pricing, how do you keep from being taken advantage of by someone who hires you to shoot a lower end project and then turns around and uses your work for a higher-end project without compensation?
I'm coming from a very different world, a digital agency, where the primary way we make money is our clients paying us for a complete, finished creative project.
Web and Video Design
This issue has been covered over and over in these forums and the same misinformation continues to be given in the answers. If you're hired to shoot a video for a client, in the absense of something in writing specifying ownership of the raw footage, the shooter or production company owns the footage rights...NOT the client.
In the case of broadcast producers, they will almost always have something written in their contracts specifying they own the footage, but corporate clients rarely if ever will address the issue...in fact....corporate clients usually sign OUR contract, not the other way around. So if you specify that you own the raw footage, then....it makes it even clearer. They're paying you to produce a finished video for them, not shoot raw footage that they can take for their own use in other videos with other companies. If you're like our company, a lot of pre-production work and creative planning can go into a shoot and that work is worth something in the form of the raw footage. If the client wants to use it for another project with us...GREAT...there's certainly no charge for that. But if they want to take that footage to another procution entity and cut something different with it, there's certainly some sort of charge for providing that footage.
Now with that said, we typically just charge dub or duplication fees (tape or digital...doesn't matter which), but we get something for our time to provide this to them.
Also...from a legal standpoint, owning the raw footage doesn't really give you much in the way of financial gain, it just gives you a little leverage down the line when it comes to having an advantage over a competitor. If you have hours and hours of beautifully shot raw footage of a client's facility, that gives you a bit of an advantage over a competitor when it comes time to bidding a new corporate video since you won't have to shoot as much new stuff.
If you've given that footage away to every faciility in town....your advantage is zero.
Anyway...the idea that if they hire you they own the footage is just incorrect and is constantly put forth as truth on this and other forums. It just ain't so. It's no different than ownership of still photographs. The photography studio owns the copyright to those photos and EVERY time a client wants to use it for a new project, the photography studio can (and many do) charge a new fee for it's licensing and use. Video is absolutely no different.
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Read our blog http://www.videomi.com/blog
Sometimes a shooter thinks he can re-sell a client's shots to make more money off of them. While that raw footage may be yours contractually, (or in the absence of a a written contract stipulating otherwise) almost certainly you didn't get the rights or copyrights to sell it elsewhere, either. So in general the situation is a stalemate, and it is in your best interest to bill a little something extra to hand over the raw footage if the client wants it, in the name of keeping up good client relations, rather than holding it for "ransom".
The ugliest case of this kind of uncertainty as to ownership is Walmart vs. Flagler (you can look it up). You do NOT want to get into that kind of a mess.
While I believe technically/legally Chris is correct, there are many ways to handle this.
One option I don't think anyone has mentioned is that you give them the raw footage but you have them sign a contract that you retain ownership. You may even define limits to its use (or not). Even if enforceability may be difficult or costly, you're sending a message. It does give you the ability to pursue legal action if it's worth it though.
For example, use in another corporate video may not be worth it as they may always come back to you for future jobs. On the other hand if the video ends up in a feature documentary up for an award and defined limits against public commercial use, it may be worth pursuing . . . first friendly if desired.
Sometimes clients want the footage for relatively innocuous reasons. Some of them I've had have been to pull stills for a calendar, internal blooper reel, or just having the ability to show certain scenes uncut internally.
In some cases they get a window dub of the raw footage so they can then make/pay for selects.
In some contracts I state explicitly that we own everything until the final edit is delivered and paid for. This prevents them from asking for the footage after paying for the shoot to finish elsewhere, but does allows them to get it upon job completion.
...And in some contracts all they get is the completed edit.
Sometimes making it clear the video can be repurposed whether through you or someone else, makes the client feel they're getting added value with the job.
There's many variables to how you can handle this but there's a lot more than "mine or yours" as an option.
Thanks, guys! I wish they'd realize that the informercial they cut using my web video outtakes is rather embarrassing to them.
From now on, I think we'll have a clause in the contract...
Web and Video Design
Appreciate your post Chris. I was getting sick in the stomach reading all the misinformation completely disregarding copyright law. It's so odd how photographers will fight tooth and nail for their ownership rights but in the video industry the usual advice is "awww, just bend over and take it. Charge them for the postage. That'll teach em!"
Seriously there is a lot of talk about maintaining a good relationship with the client, but what I feel about everyone chiming in on this is missing is the fact that most often, that ship has sailed! You probably don't have a great chance of future work from that client. That's why they want the footage. To take it to someone else. Doesn't really matter why they are doing it. Whether the project ended with everyone happy or bad blood, your still for some reason in the situation where they probably aren't going to be working with you anymore. Now, if you want to protect your image and make sure they don't bad mouth you, maybe you don't wanna be a hard#@s. BUT, I think your totally within reason to charge a noticeable and reasonable free for handing over the raw footage. And by that I mean significantly more than a few hundred bucks for your time getting the stuff ready for FedEx and postage. That's not leverage. No one is going to give a second thought and reconsider whatever it is pushing them to another vendor because your telling them its gonna cost them a few hundred bucks for your duplication time and supplies and postage.
I know a few cases where companies where held hostage by their video vendor because there was nothing in the contract about ownership. So guess who it falls on? The creator. Why does every wedding photographer know this but we are so ignorant of our rights in the video business? There's a kid where I am that held a real estate agent hostage on keeping him contracted for their video tours by simply not stating it was a work for hire. In other words, the broker gets to post the video tours she paid him to produce but he still owns them. Nice huh?! So when a competitor approaches the real estate broker she quickly pushes them off as this guy has one hand on the self destruct button for the dozens of video tours she has online at any given time. It's not worth it to her to recreate the wheel with a new vendor. In her head anyhow. Now THAT is leverage. Not that I condone or respect it necessarily. BUT it has saved his @$ s a couple of times and kept him from needing to look for income replacement. Guess who trained him on business practices?? Photographers. Fact.
For whatever it's worth. I'm currently in a situation where my out of state client has been bought by a much larger company and wants to re edit 8 industry training videos to reflect this name change. I tell them, simple, a grand a video and of course I'm the best man for the job for reasons unnecessary to state. They say...ooo, no, it was an awesome experience working with you but now that we have been gobbled up by the Empire, Lord Vader had his own people that do this work and since they are already familiar with "the brand" we just need the project files and source material from you. The "brand." Does that make any one else chuckle as much as it does me? What we use to refer to as logo, tagline, color palette. People wanna dress it up now like it's a secret sauce that takes a marketing genius to learn. I digress. This project was done on a budget and I busted my butt to make the videos look good based on ta promise that I'd make 3 the money in distribution easy. Well, through the fault of a 3rd party my client was dealing with the all distribution thing completely fell apart. So with this in mind, I most certainly am not planning on simply handing over a hard drive of material for postage and administrative fees. Even if the distribution fiasco had not occured, I still plan on charging them a significant fee, probably double to triple what I would have charged to re edit with new logos myself. If there is any chance of still doing work with them at that point, I'll find out pretty quick. But chances are, as leaders in big company have now become pawns in mammoth company....I've got zero chance of working on future projects with them.
Is there a industry standard package for video editing/shooting like there is for still photography (fotoquote by cradocfotosoftware)?
I'm helping a friend get started with his still photography business/marketing and have checked out the latest version - briefly- of fotoquote. I saw in the "assignment" categories there were two for video shoots. I also read that buyers of still images (digital or hard copy) use fotoquote to evaluate quotes from photographers. Seems like it would be great help to the videographer community as well.
Certainly this is a learning experience. You can choose to add raw footage to your contract for future clients or let these particular clients slide as an exception. I believe that clients have the right to their own raw footage, though they should pay an extra price since it is extra work to deliver the footage to them. You have to make sure you choose the right delivery method so the footage arrives to your client safely and quickly. Luckily, there are plenty of delivery options to choose from: https://valoso.com/blog/deliver-client-video-files/
It all depends on your business how you deal with raw footage, though keeping your options open expands your customer base.